Eligibility (ERSEA)

Eligibility, Recruitment, Selection, Enrollment, and Attendance (ERSEA)

Smiling mother holding up her baby.You are responsible for managing the number of families and ensuring their progress in your home-based program (this is sometimes referred to as “case management,” although many service providers prefer not to use this term or refer to families as “cases”). This is a complex process; you need to know and understand the depth and breadth of the HSPPS and be responsive to family, program, and community needs.

The HSPPS provide guidelines related to ERSEA in 45 CFR §1302  Subpart A–Eligibility, Recruitment, Selection, Enrollment, and Attendance (45 CFR §1302.10 through §1302.18).

Eligibility, Enrollment, and Number of Families Served

Families must meet federal eligibility guidelines, e.g., for family income, and specific eligibility criteria established by your program administrators and governing bodies according to 45 CFR §1302.12 through 45 CFR §1302.16. In addition, programs must reserve 10 percent of enrolled slots for children with a diagnosed disability. (See 45 CFR §1302 Subpart F–Additional Services for Children with Disabilities (45 CFR§1302.60 through §1302.63) for details on additional services for children with disabilities).

Before a family is enrolled in the home-based option, program personnel should determine whether family needs and circumstances are appropriate for this option. For example, at least one parent (or the child’s legal guardian) must be available to participate in weekly home visits and twice-monthly socializations for the duration of the child’s enrollment in the program option. Parents or guardians should also be willing to support individual child and program school readiness goals, determined through joint planning with the home visitor, between home visits.

Family Recruitment and Retention

All staff members should be involved in strategies to recruit and retain families. The positive relationship between a home visitor and each family is fertile ground for understanding family needs and how to keep participants engaged in the home-based program.

Here are strategies to consider for ERSEA activities:

  • The Community Assessment, conducted at least once over the 5-year grant period (45 CFR §1302.11(b)), gives essential information about families’ needs and community resources. It must be updated annually, capturing any significant changes in needs or resources. Work with program administrators to reevaluate how your program can best meet community needs, including whether the home-based program option is appropriate for the current circumstances in your community.
  • Know your funded enrollment.
  • Work with program administrators to determine eligibility criteria for your program. Maintain a waiting list of eligible children and/families.
  • Establish a recruitment system that includes a variety of outreach strategies. For example:
    • Get referrals from community and faith-based organizations that serve families
    • Involve home visitors, as appropriate (e.g., assign each home visitor a liaison role to a particular community organization)
    • Offer family and community social events to recruit families
  • Develop strategies that focus on recruiting and retaining pregnant women (if serving pregnant women is part of your program’s grant award). It is important to remember that the home-based, center-based, and family child care program options enroll children, so if it is determined that expectant families are best served via home visits, then they are provided services through the family partnership process.
  • When possible, maintain continuity for families by having the same staff person handle recruitment, enrollment, and child and family services in the home. When this is not possible, ensure communication among staff members so families do not have to repeat information multiple times.
  • Keep track of enrollment numbers so you can anticipate when to step up recruitment efforts.
  • Encourage home visitors to regularly assess whether the program is meeting family expectations and needs.
  • Work with home visitors to generate strategies to keep individual families involved and engaged in the program. This is particularly important if parents regularly miss home visit appointments and/or not attend group socializations.
  • Develop strategies that include fathers and other significant male family members.
  • Regularly emphasize the importance of the home visitors’ relationships with families. Families are more likely to stay engaged with the program if they feel connected to home visitors and other program staff with whom they interact.
  • Help home visitors work with families to recognize when the home-based program is not the right fit for the family. Work with home visitors to support families in finding resources that better fit their needs.
  • Conduct “exit interviews” with families who leave the program to find out why they stopped participating.

Learn More

Eligibility (ERSEA)

ERSEA tasks are some of the most important work performed by Head Start programs. ERSEA governs how programs determine eligibility, enroll children, and track attendance. Explore materials and tools to help programs market their services and develop and implement selection criteria. Also, find resources to identify community partners and better address community needs.